Yesterday, my eldest son, aged twelve and I participated in a story that aired on Channel 9 News last night, and again on the Today show this morning (I missed this one, so no idea how it went!)
Here’s a pic to prove it 😉
Anyhoo, the story was on a plan to introduce pre-teens (also known as ‘tweenagers’) to driving. As in cars, sadly, not the use of washing powder by the same name. The concept was initiated by the father of two young teenage boys, Eugene Arocca, who would like to see practical driving courses compulsory for kids from the age of 12 years. Which is how we ended up involved in the story.
I think the concept sounds a little more plausible using the term “pre-teen” but when “tween” is brought into the conversation, it kinda uses credibility.
I often find myself in awkward places with stories like this, because I neither think it is a brilliant nor utterly idiotic idea. Or, alternatively, I think it is both a great idea, and a dumb one. At the same time. It’s one of the many multitasking gifts I possess.
Of course, initially, the first reaction is “twelve year olds driving – are you nuts?!” but when you actually read the story, it is about introducing pre-teens to the concept of driving, familiarising them with cars, and giving them a taste of what it feels like to drive.
It is not a push to get more people driving around our roads before they’re ready for it. Although I know a few 12 year olds that are possibly more capable and ready than some adults, but that’s another story.
From the “stupid idea” perspective, kids this age are physically not big enough of strong enough (yes, a generalisation that does not apply to ‘every kid’) to handle a car; their legs are potentially not long enough, and they are less likely to be able to capably control a car.
Neurologically, their brain is in a place that merely encourages them to do stupid things (especially – generally – but not exclusively boys, often referred to as ‘risk taking behaviour’), their brains are rewiring at some fantastic rate, their memory and brain function is dubious at best and explains why they are increasingly forgetful.
Frankly, I don’t want a kid that can’t remember where he put his shoes on a daily basis behind the wheel of a car, whether on the main roads or a shopping centre carpark after closing time or not.
Also, I look at my twelve year old and think “Nooooooooo! He’s too little and still a baby!” Which will embarrass the fuck out of him, but whatever.
Again, this story and program is not about putting kids on the roads, driving around in their brain-malfunctioning and risk taking/stupid behaviour ways.
In this respect- the introduction to driving and familiarisation with cars – I’m all for it.
I think, whether as a society in general, or whether we’re just led to feel it’s like this thanks to mass media, our kids receive little exposure or experience to cars. Other than, of course, being driven the easily walkable way to school.
The entire concept of driving the beat up car around the paddock still exists (I hope!) but is slowly being eradicated. Parents are completely freaked out about the highly unlikely incident of an accident, any accident, and the thought of fines or gaol for parents who let their early-teenager back the car out of the garage is hanging over our heads. Much like the threat of being fined or gaoled for leaving similarly aged kids at home, alone.
I fear for the obliteration of the self confidence and knowing they are completely capable human beings for this generation.
Incidentally, we have created a ‘fear’ of sorts for kids; don’t touch this, don’t do that, don’t sit there … kids cannot be left in the car and know that cars are not killers. Of course, I’m not talking about babies, but kids of a more reasonable age. They are constantly told how dangerous cars are, moved away from them, not allowed to touch them.
This is, of course, sensible advice. However, they experience years and years of “no, bad, scary” and suddenly, “Here’s the keys, hop in, off you go and try not to be a fuckwit behind the wheel.”
There’s no intermediary.
Given the right instruction, by the appropriate person in suitable locations (as is proposed in this initiative), I think this is a great idea. I don’t want to see any old teacher being responsible for the instruction, nor a volunteer parent (and the parent committee will probably stomp the concept out anyway).
Yes, it has potential to lead to kids thinking they are immortal and doing stupid stuff in cars. This happens at all ages and, I believe, is an entirely different issue to focus on. The kids who do stupid stuff in relation to cars do stupid stuff in relation to just about everything else, too.
If, however, it leaves people feeling a little more confident when they do actually go for their license, and they are less freaked out and more familiar, I feel this would be a better thing.
Do I think driver’s ed or similar needs to be taught in schools? Yes, yes I do. Along with lots of other ‘non-academic’ subjects.
What do you think?
Given the concept of the plan (i.e. familiarising pre-teens with cars in quiet, safe areas, but not actually driving, and definitely not on the streets) do you think it’s a good idea or not?